Born in Amsterdam, Netherlands. He graduated from the University of Leiden with a double in maths and physics. He joined the Dutch navy and it was in that service that he gained his first exposure to film, making documentaries. He left the navy and took his skills into Dutch television. His first major success was the 1969 Floris television series, starring Rutger Hauer. His first film was released in 1971, Wat Zien Ik? was not especially well received. But his first national success did not come until 1973 with Turks Fruit, featuring Hauer. He built on his reputation and following minor international successes, such as the Golden Globe winning Soldaat van Oranje, he moved to the US.
Working in America he made a serious change in style, directing big-budget, violent, effects heavy smashes such as Robocop (1987) and Total Recall (1990). He followed those success with the provocative Basic Instinct (1992) and then the dreadful flop Showgirls (1995). After that he returned to the violence and effects that marked his earlier films with Starship Troopers (1997) and Hollow Man (2000).
There is also a German film director called Paul Verhoeven (June 23, 1901 - March 22, 1975).